With Junior Hockey being a ticket-driven machine, no one can safely run now with extreme social distancing. Recently, Oregon dropped from 250 people to 100 in a space and that won’t work where the minimum needed to run games will be between 2,000 and 4,000 just in Portland.
The hockey season is stumbling back from the Coronavirus with the NHL running in “bubble zones” and testing frequently only to find out that positives are still happening. With the patchwork going on in North America, here us what the major seasons look like.
On the Junior level, things can and will become fluid. The recent reductions in attendance plus the travel restrictions have made things very volatile and there seems to be no end in sight. Of course, we all know this could change quickly, so this is just the most current information.
From the British Columbia Junior Hockey League website:
The BC Hockey League announced today that it is planning to start the 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 1, pending approval from the Provincial Health Office (PHO).
“We’ve been having discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture since March around a safe return to play,” said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb. “The PHO has indicated to us that waiting until December gives us the best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play.”
A full schedule with a December start date will be announced at a later date. The pushback to Dec. 1 aligns with the NHL’s plan to start their 2020-21 season.
In Prince George, the Spruce Kings look to be playing at Kin 1, which is a smaller arena on the same grounds that the CN Centre is on. The City of Prince George has said venues like the CN Centre will remain closed until the end of 2020, which puts it tough for the WHL planning on an October 2 start date.
In Alberta, the Alberta Junior Hockey League gave the following statements from their website:
The Alberta Junior Hockey League announced its schedule for the 2020-21 AJHL Regular Season today. The League is preparing to begin its 57 th season in September should provincial health regulations allow.
The AJHL will consist of 15 teams in the 2020-21 season, which increases to 16 teams with the addition of the Blackfalds Bulldogs in 2021-22. Teams are scheduled to play 58 games in the new modified regular season format, including one game versus each opponent from the opposite division and two games at the AJHL Showcase. The schedule has been created to remove pre-determined blocks of games should the season start be delayed.
A schedule for the 2020 AJHL Exhibition Season will be determined and announced in August 2020.
The 14 th Annual AJHL Showcase, originally scheduled for September 24 th – 26 th, 2020 in Camrose, Alberta, has been tentatively rescheduled to January 5 th-7 th, 2021. The 15-game event would include each team playing two regular-season games apiece in front of fans, coaches and scouts from across North America. Pre-Registration for the scouting community and event details including tickets and volunteer opportunities will be available at AJHL.ca.
Seven AJHL Teams will partner with local schools to host ‘Hockey Hooky Games’ throughout the season. Students will experience an afternoon of hockey with the Drumheller Dragons (February 10 th), Brooks Bandits (December 9 th), Camrose Kodiaks (January 19 th), Canmore Eagles (February 10 th), Drayton Valley Thunder (February 23 rd), Grande Prairie Storm (February 3 rd) and Okotoks Oilers (February 9 th).
The 2021 Inter Pipeline AJHL Playoffs begin Friday, March 5th and will follow the same format as the 2020 AJHL Playoffs:
- North Division – Top 7 teams qualify (1st place receives a Bye, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5)
- South Division – Top 6 teams qualify (1st & 2nd place receive a Bye, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5)
The Viterra AJHL South Division and Viterra AJHL North Division will playoff to determine a divisional champion at the conclusion of Round Three. The North Division Champion and the South Division Champion will then compete in the Inter Pipeline Cup Final.
Plans for the 2021 Doyle Cup (AJHL Trophy) and 2021 Centennial Cup ( Featuring winning teams from each of the Divisions and 1 host team) will be determined at a later date.
In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, their websites have not reflected a schedule for its teams.
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League hasn’t updated since June with the standard safe to play protocols being announced as when the season would start. The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, which competes for the RBC Cup with the SJHL, AJHL and BCHL has also not listed a return to date on its site either
The WHL,OHL and QMJHL have not listed any updates either and time is running out for a proposed October 2020 opening. The biggest issue is with the American based teams. The WHL has 5 and the Ontario Junior Hockey League has two. In the WHL, there is the option of running the division separate.